A study by James F. Pagel, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has found that insufficient sleep can have an adverse effect the next day not only on an adult’s work performance but also on how well students perform at school. Adolescents who experience sleep disturbances are more likely to receive bad grades.
Based on 238 questionnaires completed by middle or high school students, the survey found that those with lower grade point averages (GPA) were more likely to experience restless, aching legs when trying to fall asleep, snoring every night, a hard time waking up in the morning, difficulty concentrating during the day, and falling asleep in class. James Pagel said: “While a series of previously-conducted studies all found that adolescents reporting inadequate sleep, irregular sleep patterns, and/or poor sleep quality do not perform as well in school as students without sleep complaints, this study provides additional evidence indicating that sleep disturbances occur at high frequencies in adolescents and significantly affect daytime performance, as measured by GPA.”
Restless legs and difficulty concentrating during the day can be symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a diagnosis associated with poor school performance. The study concludes that it is important for parents to discuss their teens’ sleep-related problems with a primary care physician, and to request ADHD screening if appropriate.
The report suggests the following tips for getting a good night’s sleep which may contribute to better school performance:
- “Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Do not stay up all hours of the night to ‘cram’ for an exam, do homework, etc. If extracurricular activities at school are proving to be too time-consuming, consider cutting back.
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed and do something relaxing, such as reading a book or listening to music, until you are tired enough to go back to bed.
- Get up at the same time every morning.
- Avoid taking naps after school if you can. If you need to lie down, do not do so for more than an hour.
- Keep a regular schedule.
- Don’t read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone or play cards in bed.
- Do not have any caffeine after lunch.
- Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
- Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
- Try to get rid of or deal with things that make you worry.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.”